Hopewell, NJ – A 20-year veteran of the Hopewell Police Department (HPD) was fired by the town council after she referred to Black Lives Matter as “terrorists” in a heartfelt Facebook post last summer about her children’s fear she would be hurt at work.
An HPD sergeant who replied to a comment on the post was slapped with a six-month suspension, as well as a demotion, NJ.com reported.
The town council’s vote on the disciplinary action was unanimous.
Frank Crivelli, the attorney representing HPD Sergeant Mandy Gray and now-former Officer Sara Erwin, said the council’s actions against his clients are “disgraceful and cowardice,” NJ.com reported.
Crivelli said both Erwin and Sgt. Gray have served with HPD for more than 20 years.
Sgt. Gray was the first female officer in the history of HPD, and both she and Erwin have received numerous commendations during their decades of service, he noted.
They had “absolutely no disciplinary history” prior to the firestorm that erupted in the wake of Erwin’s Facebook post in June of 2020, Crivelli told NJ.com.
“Last night as I left for work I had my two kids crying for me not to go to work,” Officer Erwin wrote in the post. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt the way I did last night. And then I watched people I know and others I care about going into harms way. I love my police family like my own.”
“So when you share posts and things on Facebook I’d really appreciate if you’d THINK before doing so,” the veteran officer continued. “I’ve seen so many black lives matter [sic] hashtags in these posts. Just to let you know – they are terrorists. They hate me. They hate my uniform. They don’t care if I die.”
Officer Erwin and several other HPD employees who reacted to her post were immediately placed on leave and investigated by the department, NJ.com reported.
HPD Chief Lance Maloney, who has since retired, issued a public apology shortly after the post was made.
Protests erupted and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation into the matter before clearing all involved and sending the matter back to the township for potential disciplinary action, NJ.com reported.
When Chief Maloney retired, the town decided to do away with his job and created a civilian police director position instead.
That role has since been filled by retired New Jersey State Police (NJSP) Captain Robert Karmazin, NJ.com reported.
Karmazin refused to comment on Erwin’s firing and Sgt. Gray’s lengthy suspension and demotion on Monday, according to NJ.com.
Crivelli said Sgt. Gray and Erwin have already filed appeals in Superior Court over the town council’s actions against them.
He said the appeals argue First Amendment issues, as well as other matters, NJ.com reported.